Celebrating Crop Trust's Achievements in 2023
21 December 2023
As we say farewell to 2023, it's time to celebrate the remarkable achievements and strides we made this past year in safeguarding our planet's crop diversity. Funded by committed donors and in collaboration with dedicated partners, the Crop Trust’s staff continued working hard to expand its Endowment Fund and engage in various projects to support global food security.
Here are our top highlights from 2023.
Millets, the Protagonists of the Year
2023 was the International Year of Millets, and the Crop Trust played its part. We facilitated the development of a global conservation strategy, aiming to prevent the decline and potential loss of millet diversity. Known for their hardiness, nutritional richness, and cultural importance, millets face neglect in many places, due to being labeled "minor" or "poor peoples" crops, but this year turned the spotlight firmly on these mighty and nutritious grains.
Moreover, along with the Secretariat of the International Treaty and ICRISAT, the Crop Trust jointly organized an international panel of high-level experts to highlight the importance of the genetic diversity of sorghum and millets for food security and nutrition.
Aiming High With a 2030 Strategy
In 2023, the Crop Trust set its new 2030 Strategic Plan into motion to secure the permanent conservation and accessibility of crop diversity for sustainable and resilient agri-food systems.
The plan has three key goals: providing long-term financial support to international genebanks, building capacity in national genebanks, and increasing global awareness of the importance of crop diversity. To achieve these objectives, the Crop Trust seeks financial resources to boost its Endowment Fund to USD 625 million by 2030.
The Event of the Year
Without a doubt, the Crop Trust’s event of the year was the Global Crop Diversity Summit, held in November. With an audience of 225 in person and 1,100 online, the Summit gathered academics, government officials and genebank managers together to raise awareness of the important role that crop diversity plays in securing nutritious agri-food systems for us all. It called for more funding for seed banks, and more cooperation among them to ensure they can play a full role in the transformation of agri-food systems. The summit concluded with a communique that highlighted the key actions needed to help seed banks safeguard future food security.
The Most Popular Article
‘If life gives you lemons’ was the most popular article among the readers of the Crop Diversity Digest in 2023. This piece explores the challenges that global citrus crops face due to climate change, pests, and limited diversity. It highlights efforts to conserve citrus diversity in genebanks, emphasizing the need for backups and proposing a bold strategy for a secure global citrus collection.
15 years of Svalbard
2023 marked the 15th anniversary of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. For the first time this year, the vault opened its doors to the whole world — albeit virtually. The online tour allows anyone to experience the inside of this remote and iconic place.
In October, Ghana became the 100th depositor to deposit seeds in the Vault, an important step towards ensuring the long-term protection of the country’s major food crops. Ghana joined 15 other institutions, including the Bonn University Botanic Gardens (Germany), in safeguarding duplicates of their seed collections.
Best of Social
We end this year with a growing number of followers on our social media channels. Over 100,000 people follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and X combined.
Double tapped almost 5,500 times, one the most liked posts on the Crop Trust’s Instagram was an image of Batma Tentieva, a scientist and BOLD project coordinator in Kyrgyzstan. She received a crop breeder's ultimate accolade when her institute, the Kyrgyz Research Institute of Livestock and Pastures, named an alfalfa variety she bred after her. Alfalfa – or lucerne, as some call it – is widely grown worldwide as a feed for livestock.
A BOLDER year
As the world came together at COP28 in Dubai, the Crop Trust proudly announced the launch of the BOLDER (Building Opportunities for Lesser-known Diversity in Edible Resources) initiative. An addition to the 10-year BOLD (Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods, and Development) project, BOLDER will work with multiple partners across four African countries to enhance the conservation, production, and consumption of neglected crops: nutritious, robust, environment-friendly, and important for local communities, but ignored by research and development.
In partnership with CGIAR, in 2023 the Crop Trust hosted five “Genebank Resources on the Web (GROW)” webinars that provided thought-provoking discussions within the genebank community. The GROW webinars, which will continue next year, covered topics such as seed dormancy, plant breeding and cryopreservation featuring experts that included the participation of Professor of Biology and Plant and Soil Sciences from the University of Kentucky, Carol Baskin.
Landmark Partnerships to Secure Crops
At the Africa Food Systems Summit, the Crop Trust and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), signed a Long-term Partnership Agreement securing the future of vital African crops. This commitment guarantees perpetual funding for IITA's genebank, preserving over 36,000 varieties of key sub-Saharan African food crops such as maize, Bambara groundnut and African yam bean, including the world’s largest collection of cowpea, contributing to climate resilience and nutrition for smallholder farmers.
Celebrating Seeds for Resilience
The Seeds for Resilience project enters its penultimate year of activity in 2024. This five-year project provided financial and technical support to safeguard the national crop diversity collections of Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia.
The Seeds for Resilience project has provided a full service to its African genebanks. It has strengthened its equipment and infrastructure and given them the tools to connect with farmers through the “germplasm engagement groups,” a participatory approach that helps farmers to evaluate and select the crop varieties that best meet their needs.
In 2024, join the Crop Trust in continuing to raise awareness of crop diversity conservation and use. Stay in touch with us on social media and check our website for the latest stories, and don’t forget to subscribe to The Dish Newsletter.
Here's to an even better 2024!